Sunday, August 15, 2010

27 Stresses

I had a birthday last week. Very exciting yes, I know.

I’m not one of those people who hates his birthday. Quite the contrary. I love my birthday. I love the ritual of celebrating the life I’ve lead and the year I’ve had.

I like gathering with friends, getting as many people together as I can to eat, drink, and be merry. That’s what I love about birthdays. That is what makes me smile.

What doesn’t make me smile is the song, the birthday song.

I think the song is called “Happy Birthday” which in and of itself, seems like a dumb name. I mean it’s a very simple song, I get that, but that is just the problem.

Happy Birthday to you

Happy birthday to you? Happy birthday TO you? When in your life do you ever use that kind of phrasing?

Happy Anniversary to you
Good luck to you

It’s like one step away from wishing a happy birthday AT somebody.

Here take this happy birthday, we don’t want it. We have so many.

Like they are throwing Jell-o at a wall. What kind of speech is that? I mean it sounds like it was written in Victorian England.

Well, a most jubilant birthday to you Mr. Roquefort.
Ah yes, and to you as well Lord Brocklebank!

Further wikipediaing shows that the song was in fact written in 1893. Ah yes as I recall that was an awful year for songwriting considering the tune for this song was stolen from (as you all know) “Good Morning to All.”

But the lyrics are very curt. And if the song weren’t so damn slow it would feel abrupt. You aren’t even really expressing sentiment. I mean at least in “We wish you a merry Christmas” we understand your participation in the song as a singer.

Who wishes? Oh, YOU wishes. Oh OK, well, thank you very much for singing that to me.

And actually now that I think about it, why the hell are we singing in the first place? Whose idea was this? Whoever invented this song was probably just a big fan of Christmas and trying to impress somebody.

Well ya know, we sing then… and we are all so happy… can’t we sing on our birthdays too?

We don’t sing on Easter, Lincoln’s birthday, Flag Day or Thanksgiving. Why on earth are we singing on birthdays?

At least on Christmas there is some musical accompaniment to drown out the awfulocity of our voices. But on birthdays there is no music. Nobody ever says

Hey let me put on my birthday record!


Hey I have my sousaphone here, just let me warm up for a minute.

No. It just starts from some painfully awkward pause and the person who bought the cake finally says, “So um, should we sing?”

No! The answer is no. Now we shouldn’t sing. I’d rather give you a birthday hand jive. Something less than 30% (I’m guessing) of the people on this planet can sing.

Ya know a very small percentage of people can juggle butcher knives so why don’t we all do that too!

It’s probably more the song itself that kills me. It is the slowest most depressing tune. It sounds more like a Mongolian death march. Is that really the best we can do to sing to every single human being every single effen year to celebrate their arrival on the planet?

Ugh, and that moment in the middle where we have to pause and remember who the hell we are singing to is just awful.

The only thing worse than singing that musical massacre is being the one being sung to!

Standing there, while people just stare at you and sing. If there was some activity you could do instead of just grinning through gritted teeth it might not be so bad.

But standing there during that 15 seconds feels like spending a sweaty week in front of a Mexican firing squad.

And then the song finally ends, and we all clap because if we didn’t clap we would all just stand there as the pain of the song resonated and people stood there in silence until somebody finally said

Wow, that was really awful wasn’t it?

Rarely is singing Happy Birthday something to clap about. Happy Birthday as sung by Placido Domingo or Marilyn Monroe? OK yes, I will clap for that.

The only version of Happy Birthday that doesn’t make me want to kill myself is the one sung to me by my friend Marissa who sings it like this

Happy Birthday to you
Cha Cha Cha
Happy Birthday to you
Cha Cha Cha

It’s only a couple of words but man it really adds some flavor to it! And she sings it to me every year, and every year it is the best voicemail I get on my birthday.

So this is my recommendation to you citizens. Let us now and forever, change the way Happy Birthday is sung. Let us officially inject multiple “Chas” into the song to bring new life to an otherwise depleted and deficient shell of a song. Let us rejoice when people start to sing instead of cringing. Let us not dread the moment that the lights go out and the cake with the candles appears.

This will change our moods; it will improve birthdays, and elevate our quality of life. And that is all I have to say about that!

(Cha Cha Cha)


TbR said...

I'm up for adding 'cha cha cha' to the usual dirge, and I know exactly what you mean about the awkwardness of bring the target of such an abismal song. The ground never swallows you up when you want it to. That said, the ground's never swallowed me up when I didn't want it to either. Perhaps the ground just doesn't swallow. ANYWAY...Happy birthday for last week!

Krysten @ After 'I Do' said...

Well happy belated birthday anyway!

Be happy you never worked at a restaurant having to do a happy birthday song. The one I worked at had it's one that went:

Happy happy birthday
From the Perkins crew
We wish it was our birthday
So we could party too

So. Dumb. I HATED any time anyone with a birthday came in. Because as their server you had to get all the other servers to come out with you to sing. And NO ONE ever wanted to. So horrible. So happy I don't work there anymore!

Pat said...

My nieces used to add the "cha-cha-cha", too, in the song back when. It was cute! I personally like -

Happy Birthday to you
Happy Birthday to you
You look like a monkey
And you act like one, too!

Neurotic Workaholic said...

Happy belated birthday. I hope it was a good one. I don't really mind the birthday song, unless waiters are singing it to me in a restaurant in front of a bunch of people. Unless they bring cake. Then it's okay.
(I never got the whole greeting part either. We say Happy Birthday but Merry Christmas. Why not Happy Christmas? Does any American actually use the word "merry" in everyday conversation?)

Stephanie Ann said...

Happy belated birthday! Cha cha cha!

I really like the idea of adding "cha cha cha" into the birthday song. As a matter of fact I like the idea of adding it into lots of other things as well....

DangGina said...

And aren't we GLAD that there's no such thing as a birthday CD?! Ugh!

Although I kinda love my birthday more than the average adult, being sung at is pretty much the worst part of any birthday. -Funny that I've never loved being sung the birthday song, but never stopped to think about why. Looks like you've done all the thinking for me. Thanks.

Oh yes, and a belated happy birthday.

Jeninacide said...

I have hated the birthday song MY ENTIRE LIFE. I felt awkward about it even as a child. I say we skip it all together!

Caroline B said...

Yes, it is a dreadful dirge which perhaps even the addition of a few cha-cha-chas can't even save. Try having it sung at you by a class of 6 year olds, out of tune, getting slower and slower until the confusion that is your name.....and then having them ask you all day, 'how old are you?'

RedWriter said...

Ah well... you obviously haven't been sung Happy Birthday to in a Chinese restaurant when the music is out of tune and the lyrics on the well worn CD are all in a language that is not English but then doesn't exactly sound Chinese either. It's hilarious and restores faith in four timeless lines of a pointless tradition. :) x Happy Birthday RB. x

dogimo said...

This post is sub-par. SUB-PAR, my friend! I've been reading and reading posts of yours, for a while now reading and even re-reading, waiting for my chance to say something - anything - and now here it is! This post is my chance at last.

It's sub-par.

I admit, I wasn't sure you were going to give me any sort of opening at all, for a while there I was just saying to myself: this guy's too good. Your chance won't come. He won't let it come. Well, we all slip up sometimes. This post, it's a little off. Based on what I've seen from you. You know, I take that into account! I have to. It wouldn't be fair, otherwise.

You're an excellent writer, pal. You can and do do considerably better than this. On a routine basis, even - but therein's where it rubs, because it can't just be routine, you can't just coast. So, as you were. Take a deep breath, climb the ladder and hit it again. Don't even worry about it. It's a part of life: even operating at the highest possible level, every outing can't be one's best.

You can take that as philosophically as you please.

Oh yes, happy birthday!

dogimo said...

Ah, who am I kidding. This post is just fine! There's nothing wrong with it at all!

Look at me, floundering around unable to cite anything even slightly specific.

Well it's the thought that counts, as they say.

Deanna - The Unnatural Mother said...

or you can sing Happy Birthday! Grandma's Cookies! That's what all the kids are singing anyway....

Happy Birthday!!

Cassie said...

My boyfriend absolutely detests the song, as well. So I kind of felt awkward during his last birthday when I DIDN'T sing the Happy Birthday Song because, well, it was his birthday. Also, I'd be lying if I said I wasn't SLIGHTLY bummed that he didn't sing it for me on my birthday. (He was otherwise totally accommodating.) I do understand your hatred, though. It's not exactly a delight.

In any case, happy birthday to you!

Nancy said...

Oh yeah, I'm ready ... cha cha cha!

Hope you had a good one.